Today’s readings in many ways pick up where last Sunday’s celebration of the Presentation left off. Last week we heard Simeon proclaim that his eyes have seen the Lord’s promise of salvation … a light to reveal you to the nations. Jesus Christ is this Light of the world, as proclaimed again in today’s Gospel antiphon.
Today’s first reading from Isaiah (Chapter 58) calls to mind the manner in which we will be judged on the last day (Matthew 25). We are called to share our bread with the hungry give shelter to the oppressed and homeless, and clothe the naked. We are called to put our faith into action, to walk humbly with God in acting justly towards our neighbor.
St. Paul reminds us the origin of such justice is our relationship with Jesus. In his own ministry, Paul sought only to know Jesus Christ, and him crucified. St. Paul knew that his strength was found in the grace provided by Christ. So it is with us. We are called to an intimate relationship with Christ, for when he tells his disciples that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, he is reminding us of His indwelling presence which gives such vibrancy to our faith and love and mercy to our acts of kindness.
Christ nourishes his Light and Life within us in every Eucharist. Thus, today’s Prayer Over The Offerings proclaims: “O Lord our God, who once established these created things to sustain us in our frailty, grant, we pray, that they may become for us now the Sacrament of eternal life. Through Christ our Lord.”
As the bread and wine are presented during Mass to be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so to the faithful make a gift of their very lives to also be changed into the Body of Christ. That is why we believe the Church is the Body of Christ, the People of God.
As Christ made a gift of Himself for our redemption, in the Eucharist He unites us to Himself, making us one body, one spirit. We are now capable in our unity with Christ (and one another) of making a gift of our self to others.
Pope Francis speaks beautifully of this reality and power of the baptized in The Joy of the Gospel. “Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the People of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service.” (#102) If ordained ministers are at the service of the People of God, who are the People of God sent to serve? Clearly, they are as the Second Vatican Council teaches sent into the world as leaven for the increase of God’s Kingdom.
Pope Francis goes on to say: “In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization… As part of his mysterious love for humanity, God furnishes the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith – sensus fidei – which helps them discern what is truly of God.” (#119)
“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples… The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized… (#120) all of us are called to mature in our work as evangelizers…each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are. All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord,” (#121)
Lent is just one month away. Let us now start praying about what God is calling us to do to better live our faith. Who does not want to see each Mass filled to full capacity; standing room only? We all know Catholics who for many reasons are no longer a part of the worshiping body of believers. Perhaps the only way some of them will return is for us to do exactly what Pope Francis is challenging us to do – live our faith with joy.
Perhaps before we invite individuals to return to Mass, we must take a preliminary step to invite them to our home for a meal – or to share a cup of coffee. Then, we can initiate a conversation in which we share our faith story. Let us not be ashamed to mention the name of Jesus. Let us be courageous, yet humble, in sharing our faith with others. Is Christ not our greatest treasure? Then let us reveal the riches we find in Him to others.
You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Go, and live the faith!